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GW rallies to edge Comets

For 24 minutes, Halifax County High School gave arch-rival GW all it could handle in Monday night’s Piedmont District game in Danville.

Circumstances caught up with the Comets in the fourth quarter as GW rallied to edge the Comets 57-46.

“I was real proud of our team tonight,” said Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.

“We had to face a lot of adversity.”

Keyshawn Johnson, the quarterback of the Comets’ offense, left the game with an injury to his lower back with 5:41 left in the third quarter. Johnson was the Comets’ leading scorer with 11 points up to that juncture of the game.

As if that wasn’t enough, Trelanne Johnson, the team’s leading rebounder, fouled out of the game with 7:32 left in the contest. The Comets were leading 33-32 when Keyshawn Johnson was forced to the sidelines and trailed by two points at 42-40 when Trelanne Johnson left the contest.

After that, several Comets players were forced to fill roles they had not previously had to take on this season.

“We had some odd combinations out there and it was tough at times,” Epperly pointed out.

“We’re better when Keyshawn and Trelanne are out there. We were without both of them. We had to do with what we had.”

James Smith Jr. took over Keyshawn Johnson’s spot at point guard and provided a yeoman’s effort. Smith, a freshman, scored 10 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, with those points coming after taking over Johnson’s role.

“He got put in a tough situation,” Epperly said of Smith.

“All of a sudden he’s got to try to handle the ball and get us into our offense.”

While Smith did a solid job and gave the Comets a lift, the Comets were not quite the same.

After the Comets took a 36-32 lead on a 3-point shot from Will Miller with 5:17 left in the third quarter, GW scored seven unanswered points, three of them coming from Xavier Crews, to take a 39-36 lead. The Comets never led after that.

Smith brought the Comets back to within a point at 39-38 with a bucket with 2:35 left in the quarter, but GW scored the final three points of the period to take a 42-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

A layup by Smith to start the fourth quarter got the Comets back to within a bucket at 42-40. GW then broke the Comets’ back with a 9-0 run capped by a basket from Crews to give GW a 51-40 lead with 5:49 left in the game.

The Comets got back to within seven points on a pair of free throws from Smith with 3:27 left, but could get no closer. 

“You could tell we were not as efficient,” Epperly pointed out.

“Keyshawn can get us going, can get us to run the offense. We could have done a couple of things better. I think the mistakes came from having some guys playing some spots they’re not used to playing. But, all in all, considering circumstances. I’m proud of our team.”

The first half was as an intense half of basketball the Comets have played this season. Trailing 24-14 at the end of the first quarter, the Comets rallied to outscore GW 17-4 in the second quarter and take a 31-28 lead at halftime. Keyshawn Johnson scored 11 of his team’s 31 first half points.

“We didn’t do anything different, we just told them they had to execute more, ” Epperly said of his team’s big second quarter.

“The adjustment was to do it harder and do it better and we did that.”

GW Head Coach Ron Parson said the difference with his team in the second quarter was “we went back to our old ways. We were up 10, came down three times in a row and threw up bad shots. That’s going to get you in trouble if you’re not hitting them.”

Parson credited the Comets with a good effort.

“I thought Halifax really played well,” he pointed out.

“They out-scrapped us the first half.”